The Hon. John Collier

The Last Voyage of Henry Hudson

exhibited 1881

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Not on display

The Hon. John Collier 1850–1934
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 2140 × 1835 mm
Presented by the Trustees of the Chantrey Bequest 1881

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In 1611, while on an expedition to find the North-West Passage, explorer Henry Hudson and his son were cast adrift by his mutinous crew. Their fate was unknown but raised the taboo of cannibalism. Collier hints at this by posing Hudson, eerily staring out at the viewer like Dante’s ‘Ugolino’ by Joshua Reynolds, 1773. Incarcerated with his sons, Ugolino eats them to survive, although the act is futile and all eventually die. Here the vast, Arctic landscape remains impassive to a terrifying human drama. Collier’s audience noted its relevance to ongoing Arctic explorations and the search for the North-West Passage.

Gallery label, July 2010

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Catalogue entry

Not inscribed.
Canvas, 84 1/2×72 1/4 (214·5×184).
Chantrey Purchase from the artist 1881.
Exh: R.A., 1881 (260); Sunderland, December 1921–January 1922 (3).
Repr: Sir Edward J. Poynter, The National Gallery, III, 1900, p.27; W.H. Pollock, ‘The Hon. John Collier’ in The Art Annual, 1914, p.19.

The R.A. catalogue contained the following passage: ‘Henry Hudson, the great navigator, made his last voyage to the Polar Seas in 1610. In the summer of 1611 his crew mutinied and set him adrift in an open boat with his son, John Hudson, and some of the most infirm of the sailors. They were never heard of more.’ According to The Dictionary of National Biography Hudson and his immediate following were cast adrift from the ship Discovery on 23 June 1611, after a struggle in which four men were killed.

Published in:
Mary Chamot, Dennis Farr and Martin Butlin, The Modern British Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, London 1964, I

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